6 pm. Jan. 12. 2010. Skirball lobby.
George Gilder paces nervously. A man promises to get him a cup of coffee.
George walks off and drinks some cold water.
“Now’s my chance,” I think.
I summon my courage and I walk up to him.
“Mr. Gilder,” I boom. “I’m a big fan.”
He turns to me and says, “And you are?”
“I’m a blogger. I’ve been blogging for 15 years.”
“And your name is?” he says.
“Luke Ford. I read your book Men and Marriage 20 years ago.”
I don’t mention my failure to marry. It didn’t seem like the right time.
“You go way back,” says the great man.
“When did you send your first email?” I ask.
“Back in the days of the HP-95. It was like a proto-Blackberry. I was sending email on it in 1988… HP could’ve cornered the market.”
The man comes back and says he’s making a run to Starbucks.
“Do you know where the nearest Starbucks is?” George Gilder asks me.
I’m shaken. The great man has asked me a question but I do not know the answer.
My lips move but no sound comes out.
“Don’t worry,” says the man. “I know one. It may take me 30 minutes.”
“A non-fat soy latte,” says George Gilder. “I’m sorry to be such a nervous Nelly.”
“Not at all,” says the man and fires off.
I see my opportunity and I strike like a cobra.
“Have you heard of Alexander Technique?” I ask George Gilder.
“”Yes, yes,” says Gilder. “I’ve had it practiced on me.”
Practiced on me? Good Heavens! No wonder it did him no benefit. No wonder George Gilder is so pulled down and twitchy and a nervous Nelly. Just think — Humble Luke could help the great man. I could show him that Alexander Technique is not so much something that is practiced on one but rather it is a way of living that is internalized and practiced on oneself.
“A friend of mine did it to me,” says Gilder. “He was what do you call someone in Alexander Technique? I’m sorry, I have to get ready for my talk.”
Well, I think that went well, don’t you?
Tonight’s event is sponsored by CAMERA, which monitors the news media for anti-Israel bias.
I sit up front and try to practice the very best Alexander Technique whenever I crane my neck around and look for Orit Arfa.
George Gilder speaks on his new book.
“In the 1980s, Israel was still a mess. It still hadn’t escaped from socialism. It had tremendous inflation. It spiked up to 1000% a year.”
Gilder cites a famous 1990 book on the competitiveness of nations that devoted only one paragraph to Israel (saying it was advanced in military and agricultural technology). In the 1990s, Israel got a million conservative Russian-Jews, the economy freed up from socialist control, and the country boomed.
Gilder says that Israel is the United States’s most important ally and that the U.S. might not have won the Cold War without the contributions of Israeli scientists.
After WWII, the U.S. wasn’t able to match the Soviet Union’s military and technological advances (Soviet hydrogen bomb, ICBMs, Sputnik, etc).
“The reason we won wasn’t these classified programs…but the amazing efflorescence of information technology epitomized by Intel’s microchips…and the internet… All had the same roots in collaboration with Israel.”
“Since 1990, there’s been a 60-fold increase in venture capital in Israel.”
George Gilder says that “Israel has the best leadership in the Western world right now. [Israeli prime minister] Benjamin Netanyahu is the true leader of the West.”
“We will win the war [against Islamic terror] if we ally with Israel again, without embarrassment and without any foolish notion that Israel commits violations of Jewish law and the other calumnies that CAMERA is so effective in refuting.”
“The biggest beneficiary of Israel in the world is the Arab-Palestinians, more than Americans… After 1967, some 250,000 Jews moved into these territories [and it economy boomed]. These are the evil settlers you hear about… Eight times as many Arabs moved in as Jews. The Arabs per-capita income tripled. Their education level soared. Their average life expectancy rose from around 40 years to over 70 years. It was a Golden Age for Palestinian Arabs when they passed The Israel Test and collaborated with Jews.”
Last November’s Forbes-Gilder Telecosm – a distinguished annual conclave on science and technology – was devoted entirely to Israel. Telecosm is a co-venture of George Gilder – whose global best-seller Wealth and Poverty ushered the era of Reaganomics and its unprecedented economic growth – and of Steve Forbes, the author, publisher and candidate for US presidency who taught millions the virtues of markets and entrepreneurship.
Telecosm’s showcase of Israeli hi-tech followed the publication of the most recent Gilder best-seller The Israel Test. Gilder, a guru of technology and entrepreneurship, claims that attitudes toward Israel are a test case of attitudes toward civilization. Attacks on Israel express “barbarism, envy and death, [a conflict] with civilization, creativity and life.”
Israel and the US are hated “primarily because of hostility toward capitalist creativity,” Gilder adds.
Since the Middle Ages, Jews have been the pioneers in the great capitalist expansion through international trade. They also led its more recent scientific revolution and its astounding technological applications, creating vast improvement in human life. Jews were also central in creating the weapons that crushed evil regimes. In Milton Friedman’s innovative contributions to economics they helped propel 50 years of unprecedented prosperity that spread even to the most laggard economies of China and India.
Anti-Semitism expresses envy and greed, Gilder believes. It is rooted in the Marxist assumption that profit derives from exploitation and that economic creativity is therefore basically sinful. Israel is hated because it is “a leader of human civilization, technological progress and scientific advance,” Gilder concludes. On opening a computer you first read “Intel Inside,” but it should actually read, he says, “Israel inside,” because most major inventions, even of Intel, were largely made here.
In your book, you shower praise on Benjamin Netanyahu. Why?
Netanyahu is the Reagan of our era. He is a leading authority on supply-side economic theory, he understands it better than any American politician, and he just has the kind of intuitive mastery of economics that eludes most other politicians around the world.
He has advocated market-oriented policies and supply-side tax cuts, which really climaxed in 2004 when he managed to get the percentage of ownership of Israel’s leading corporations reduced from 60-80 percent down to 20 percent. He also managed to secure the privatization – over 20 years – of the pension system, which was run by Histadrut with heavy government subsidies. Today the privatization of this system is yielding some 400 million dollars a month of capital.
These developments are presumably good for Israel.
Well, it’s also good for the United States because we’re in financial turmoil. We have very little idea of what we’re doing with economic policy these days. Israel has become a haven for American capital and talent. Israelis are taking the lead under Netanyahu.
I think it’s a providential development to have Israel following aggressive supply-side policy at a time when the United States is debauching the dollar and socializing a lot of its economy. Israel is proving that the other line of policy is more promising.
Interestingly, in your book you demonstrate that Israel’s economic policies have benefited Arabs even more than Jews.
When Israel inherited the territories in 1967, it administered them, but much more loosely than it administered it own economy. And so the territories became the fastest growing economy on the face of the earth. Some 250,000 Israeli settlers moved to these previously Judenrein areas, and they attracted some two million Arab settlers. Eight Arabs moved in for every Jew.
This was a golden age for Arab Palestinians. Their numbers tripled, their per capita incomes also tripled, their educational levels soared, and their life expectancy rose from 42 to some 70 years.
My belief is that it was the manifest success of this collaboration between Jews and Palestinians that terrified Arafat and the PLO and precipitated the intifada, the return of Arafat from Tunisia, and the delivery by the international community of the territories to the PLO – who then brought to a screeching halt all the economic development. The PLO caused a 40 percent drop in GDP per capita incomes, and just generally reversed the huge achievements of the previous 20 years.
In his remarkably philo-Semitic book The Israel Test, George Gilder poses a short series of moral questions to both individuals and nations, the answers to which determine on which side the respondent falls in the ongoing struggle for the political, economic, and cultural soul of the world’s people. Mr. Gilder’s dramatic thesis is stated forcefully and clearly in the opening paragraphs of his book, which I quote in part:The central issue in international politics … is the tiny state of Israel. The prime issue is not a global war of civilizations between the West and Islam …The real issue is between the rule of law and the rule of leveler egalitarianism, between creative excellence and covetous "fairness," between admiration of achievement versus envy and resentment of it.Israel defines a line of demarcation. On one side…are those who see capitalism as a zero-sum game in which success comes at the expense of the poor…On the other side are those who see the genius and good fortune of some as a source of wealth and opportunity for all.The test can be summarized by a few questions: What is your attitude toward people who excel you in the creation of wealth or in other accomplishment? Do you aspire to their excellence, or do you seethe at it? Do you admire and celebrate exceptional achievement, or do you impugn it and seek to tear it down? Caroline Glick … sums it up: "Some people admire success; some people envy it. The enviers hate Israel."Today tiny Israel … stands behind only the United States in technological contributions. In per-capita innovation, Israel dwarfs all nations.As if the anti-Semites of the world needed another reason to hate the Jews. Gilder has not only highlighted two of the most historic causes of Jew-hatred, but he has wrapped them in a brilliantly colored package, which on the one hand explains much of the vilification of Israel that occurs today, and on the other, will surely attract more hatred in their direction. To explain, let me quickly recall a (probably incomplete) list of seven main reasons for anti-Semitism. The first four of the following are couched in terms an anti-Semite might use.1. The arrogance of the "chosen people." That this tiny, in some ways wretched band of people would declare themselves chosen by God, entrusted with His mission of redeeming humanity, and then flaunt their arrogance by holding themselves above all mankind in their perverted pursuit of that goal is insulting, contemptible, and incendiary. Small wonder that their haughtiness has earned them the enmity of most of humanity.2. Ethical monotheism. As inventors of a demanding morality (embodied in the Ten Commandments), and by their continued promulgation of their God’s moral law, they render uncomfortable many who would prefer not to be bound by the standards of the Jewish God’s dictates.3. Refusal to accept Christ. They spurned the true Messiah when he appeared on Earth and their continued existence is an affront to the Christian religion, which superseded the original mandate the Jews received from God.4. Infidels. They rejected Mohammed and they epitomize the infidels of the world who stand in the way of a worldwide caliphate and the global reign of Islam.5. Generally obnoxious. I am not engaging in self-hatred here, yet I think that it is not incorrect to assert that no other ethnic group has a leg up on the Jews in the category of "behaving obnoxiously."6. Money-grubbers. With their seemingly natural affinity for commerce, the Jews of the world, in their roles as bankers, investors, entrepreneurs, accountants, and businessmen, have proven repeatedly that their ability to accumulate wealth — sometimes deemed at the expense of others — far exceeds that of their neighbors, thereby engendering the envy and resentment of Gentiles.7. Unnatural success. Envy and resentment of the Jews is not restricted to their role in commerce. In the arts, sciences, technology, politics, law, and even war (at times), the achievements of this tiny tribe is so far above the median that it causes wonder and amazement. The ensuing reaction of many is more than envy and resentment. It encompasses a belief that the Jews must be lying, cheating, and stealing from the Gentiles — behavior that merits punishment and retribution.It is the last two reasons that Gilder has highlighted and conjoined. How? Well, in the last two decades, Israel has performed a sharp about-face in regard to its fundamental economic philosophy. Its founders a century ago were hardcore socialists, and the Labor Party that unilaterally ruled the nation (from pre-State days until thirty years ago) represented that mentality.
George Gilder, a venture capitalist and author of 14 books about business and social issues, now argues that Israel is the ultimate fault line. Indeed, he argues in The Israel Test that it presents a moral and ethical challenge to all of us. Boldly, he states that we can either choose to support Israel or choose to reject justice, democracy, free-market economics and excellence.
In essence, Gilder claims that support for Israel is a question of right vs wrong. But if he can’t convince you of that, he convincingly argues that it is also a question of capitalism vs communism.
“Israel’s critics see the world as a finite sum of resources,” he notes. Critics of the Jewish state “advocate programs of international retribution and redistribution.” Specifically, they advocate for the redistribution of land, wealth and other resources.
Indeed, in the name of “social justice,” Israel’s enemies continue to call for the tiny state to shed territory and to make concessions that would ultimately weaken its strategic position.
To this end, Gilder exposes the enemies of Israel for what they are. He argues that, “anti-capitalists, like anti-Semites throughout history, have always been obsessed with the gaps everywhere… gaps of income, power achievement and status.” His assertions go a long way to explaining the Left’s obsession with Israel, and its love affair with both the Palestinians and the Islamist movement.
Interestingly, Gilder’s argument is not anti-Palestinian. Indeed, he reasons that if the Palestinians would simply give up their fantasy of destroying Israel, they could join Israel in its quest for excellence. A true capitalist, he believes there is enough wealth to go around – even among the Israelis and Palestinians.
He argues that if the Palestinians decide to make the best of their situation, work together with Israel and build their economy, they can become “once again the most successful of all Arabs, as they were between 1967 and 1987” when the West Bank and Gaza Strip were officially part of the Israeli economy.